• Welcome News: German TV will finally air a documentary on Anti-Semitism in Europe. It had been withheld

     Good News: Germany’s widely respected public television broadcaster, WDR, will finally telecast this documentary on Wednesday night.

    The film, entitled, “Chosen and Excluded – The Hate for Jews in Europe” had been withheld, allegedly on the grounds that it was factually incorrect or not up to professional standards.

    It had been commissioned by ARD and the French-German ARTE.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Why Was the Documentary Withheld?

     The official grounds for withholding–that the film was inaccurate and unprofessional–do not hold water.

    The more plausible explanation was the kind of fear of stemming from the terrorist massacre at Charlie Hebdo and other radical Islamist attacks on outspoken journalists in Denmark, the Netherlands, and elsewhere.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Short article on the controversy at the Jerusalem Post (link here) 

    The JPost includes this important comment from Volker Beck, a Green Party deputy in the Bundestag:

    Beck also said that on Wednesday, the Bundestag will discuss a report on antisemitism from an independent expert commission that revealed that “40% of Germans hold modern anti-Israel, antisemitic views. We must face this problem.” –Volker Beck, German Green Party, quoted in the Jerusalem Post

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown, is one of the country’s leading analysts of US foreign policy, with special interests in the Middle East, Europe, and energy.

    His most recent book is Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge University Press).

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, June 17

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Sailors missing after US destroyer collides with container ship off Japan  (Washington Post)

    The cause of the collision is not yet know. The US ship is not in danger of sinking but needs to be towed back to port. The container ship is safe, as well.

    Comment: Somebody screwed up big-time.

     Obituary: Helmut Kohl, Chancellor who reunited Germany after fall of Berlin Wall (New York Times)

    Comment: Kohl knew that integrating East Germany would be difficult and costly, but he also knew that the chance for a reunited Germany might not come again. With US support (from George H. W. Bush), he overcame behind-the-scenes objections from France and England. The US brushed aside Soviet objections to integrating all Germany in NATO. Actually, the Soviets were ambivalent because they did not want a rich, powerful, united Germany to have an independent military. In short, Kohl presided over a world-historical change.

     Lawsuit threatened to recover records Comey “unlawfully removed” from the FBI (Fox News)

    Conservative watchdog Judicial Watch is calling on Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to recover and release federal records and memos it claims were “unlawfully” removed by former Director James Comey, threatening the FBI with a lawsuit should the bureau not comply. –Fox News

    Comment: To me, these records are unambiguously US public documents and ought to be returned and released unless they contain classified materials–in which case the FBI will simply leak them to the New York Times or Washington Post.

     Amazon to buy Whole Foods, which will continue to operate under its name  (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

    Analysts said they expect Amazon eventually to use the stores to promote private-label products, integrate and grow its artificial-intelligence-powered Echo speakers, boost Prime membership and entice more customers into the fold. . . .

    Whole Foods has come under fire as traditional grocers offer more natural and organic items, which are Whole Foods’ mainstay. Its shares had lost nearly half their value since a 2013 peak, and sales at stores open at least a year had slumped. –WSJ

    Comment: I think the key here is going to be home delivery.

    Amazon’s goal is to provide us every good and service without our leaving home.

     Speaker Paul Ryan: Stand back and let Robert Mueller do his job  (Washington Examiner)

    Comment: He’s smart and Donald Trump would do well to follow it unless there is concrete evidence of malfeasance or vast overreach by Mueller’s office. That’s also Rod Rosenstein’s job at the Justice Department

    But there is a problem in the potential scope of Mueller’s inquiry, which blends counter-intelligence (no limits) with possible US criminal violations.

     Miami Herald: Trump’s new Cuba policy is too much for some, not enough for others  (Miami Herald)

    Neither side in the emotional debate — those who favor a more hardline approach and those who favor the former Obama administration approach — got exactly what they wanted from Trump, although those who favor a middle ground that aims at sanctioning the Cuban military while not hampering Cuban Americans’ ability to travel and send money to relatives on the island may be most pleased. –Miami Herald

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for June 1

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Oddly, no new scandal today.

    No terrible new allegations or fierce rebuttals.

    No new leaks from the intelligence agencies.

    Makes me wonder if the internet is down in Washington.

     House Intel Committee Issues Subpoenas to Unmask Obama’s Unmaskers (Real Clear Politics)

    Some familiar names, but one new and important one: Samantha Power, Obama’s UN Ambassador who previously served on the National Security Council.  No one had mentioned her before, though Trey Gowdy may have hinted at her in a cryptic question last week.

    House investigators told [James Rosen at] Fox News they are now devoting more scrutiny to Power, and they have come to see her role in the unmasking as ‘larger than previously known.’ Allegedly eclipsing the others named. –Real Clear Politics

    Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, was also named in the subpoenas.

     Comey will testify in public next week.

    The Democrats think of him as a White Knight, riding to the rescue.

    Republicans think of him as the Knight Who Says Ni. 

    Comment: Comey thinks of himself a

    • a white knight
    • who has done absolutely everything right and nothing wrong in his public life, and
    • is now in the fight to redeem his reputation, which, he thinks,
    • will require him to destroy Trump
    • without saying that he, Comey, failed to report obstruction of justice, as he was required to do.

    This is going to be nasty, very nasty.

     Paris Climate Discord: Trump could pull US out of it this week, as he promised during the campaign.

    The New York Times has a primer on the accord itself.

    The opposition is well framed in the op-ed in the WaPo: If Trump quits the Paris climate accord, he will lead the U.S. into the wilderness

    If the United States withdraws from the accord, it would find itself in farcically lonely company. The pact was signed by 195 countries, with only Nicaragua and Syria bowing out. . . . Some climate experts actually suggest that, given Trump’s steady dismantling of environmental protections, it’s better for the United States to leave the pact altogether than to undermine it from within.

    The other effect of a withdrawal: the disappearance of U.S. leadership on a fundamental issue affecting the future of the planet. –Washington Post op-ed

    A pro-Trump take, from the Washington Examiner: “Trump could rally GOP, reward voters with Paris Agreement exit”

    Comment: There has been a ferocious fight among Trump’s White House advisers, but it looks like the “pull out” side won.

     China sees an opening in relations with Germany after Merkel’s spat with Trump  (New York Times)

    India is also visiting Berlin.

    Comment: Germany is playing a larger global role these days. But that role will be limited unless it can round up support from other Europeans for a collective effort.

    Robert Lieber has just published a brief post on ZipDialog voicing skepticism that the Europeans really can come together. (Lieber post here.

     Solar Energy Storage systems are getting smaller, cheaper, better, allowing some solar homes to begin disconnecting from the grid (Deutsche Welle)

    Comment: Batteries and storage have been the bottleneck for a long time, and a major focus of research. Progress has been steady, but still far short of consumer needs.

     Lebanon bans new Wonder Woman movie because the lead is an Israeli actress (BBC)

    Lots of Lebanese viewers want to see it but, as one upset potential customer puts it, “a vocal minority” was against.

    Comment: Yep. The kind of vocal minority whose movie critic blows up the theater.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • Why those who see Europe going it alone are wrong

    [This post responds to an interesting opinion piece by Prof. Henry Ferrell in the Washington Post.]

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    ◆  Those who foresee a European reacting to the Trump presidency by moving to go it alone are wrong.

    Their error may come from wishful thinking or foreboding. But the real problem is one of collective action. That’s been true for a long time, and it still is.

     

    In the absence of true federal statehood –which will not happen — Europeans lack the capacity, the coherence, and the consensus that would enable them to act as a serious great world power.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    The EU is big and important, but it is still weak in crucial ways

    The European Union (EU) encompasses 28 countries and 500 million people, but on the key dimensions of national security, national sovereignty, fiscal union (i.e., a genuine federal budget), and national identity, it remains 28 separate countries.

    Moreover, Germany, though seen as the natural leader by dint of population and economic strength, spends just 1.2 % of GDP on defense.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    The Bottom Line

    In the absence of true federal statehood –which will not happen — Europeans lack the capacity, the coherence, and the consensus that would enable them to act as a serious great world power.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Robert Lieber, a professor at Georgetown, is one of the country’s leading analysts of US foreign policy, with special interests in the Middle East, Europe, and energy.

    His most recent book is Retreat and Its Consequences: American Foreign Policy and the Problem of World Order (Cambridge University Press).

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, May 30

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     No more Mr. Nice Guy: America changes tactics on ISIS, don’t make them flee, make them die (Fox News)

    Defense Secretary James Mattis said Sunday the U.S. has switched to “annihilation tactics” against the Islamic State and is focused on completely surrounding the militants instead of moving them from place to place.

    “Our strategy right now is to accelerate the campaign against ISIS. It is a threat to all civilized nations. And the bottom line is we are going to move in an accelerated and reinforced manner, throw them on their back foot,” Mattis said. –Fox News

     Iran to renew funding for Hamas terrorists  (Times of Israel)

    This was actually not an easy negotiation since they two differed over Syria, with Iran backing Assad, Hamas opposing him.

    They also come from different Islamic sects, Shiite for Iran, Sunni for Hamas.

    The deal to restore Hamas’s financial support came after marathon meetings in Lebanon between officials from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hamas, and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, the report said.

    Relations between Iran and Hamas have been rocky since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2011, when the Palestinian terror organization came out against Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is backed by Tehran. –Times of Israel

    Comment: Despite their differences, these Hamas and Iran do have one thing in common. They love killing Jews.

     Pentagon will test new anti-missile system as North Korean offensive capabilities continue to advance  (CNN)

    Comment: The issue is rapidly coming to a head as Pyongyang speeds up its testing. Intel experts are forecasting North Korea will be able to miniaturize its nuclear missiles and reach the US in as little as 3 years. South Korea and Japan will be in the crosshairs sooner.

    The danger here is profound, not only from a North Korean nuclear attack but from a conventional war. Seoul, South Korea, is a huge city and within easy reach of thousands of North Korean short-range missiles in hardened sites.

    As the US works hard on this system, with millions of lives in multiple countries at stake, the short-sighted politicians who have opposed anti-missile research for decades have a lot to answer for. 

     All Germany’s top politicians agree with Angela Merkel’s criticism of Donald Trump, say Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands” (Washington Post)

    As they campaign against each other ahead of national elections in September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her chief political rival, Martin Schulz, find themselves united in opposition to President Trump.

    Speaking at a beer hall rally in Munich on Sunday, Merkel suggested that the era when Europe could rely on the United States may be coming to an end and that the continent “really must take our fate into our own hands.” . . .

    Yet rather than criticize his rival or her Christian Democratic Union-led government for the strained relationship with Trump, Schulz has passionately offered support. –Washington Post

    Comment: It is unclear what “taking their fate into their own hands” actually means. If it means a Europe led by Germany, the world order will shake, but not before France and Russia do.

     Venezuela in chaos: opposition leaders injured (Reuters)

    Two Venezuelan opposition leaders were wounded on Monday by security forces dispersing protests in the capital Caracas against President Nicolas Maduro, according to one of the leaders and an opposition legislator.

    Maduro’s adversaries have for two months been blocking highways and setting up barricades in protests demanding he call early elections and address an increasingly severe economic crisis that has left millions struggling to get enough to eat.

    Fifty-nine people have died in the often violent street melees, which Maduro calls an effort to overthrow his government. –Reuters

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Memorial Day, May 29

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Memorial Day should be about more than bar-b-q and store-wide sales. It is a day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. May their memories forever be a blessing.

     After Trump leaves, Merkel tells Europe it cannot rely on ‘others.’ She means the United States  (Washington Post)

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday declared a new chapter in U.S.-European relations after contentious meetings with President Trump last week, saying that Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands.”

    It was the toughest review yet of Trump’s trip to Europe, which inflamed tensions rather than healed them after the U.S. president sparred with the leaders of Washington’s closest and oldest allies on trade, defense and climate change.

    Merkel, Europe’s de facto leader, told a packed beer hall rally in Munich that the days when her continent could rely on others was “over to a certain extent. This is what I have experienced in the last few days.” –Washington Post

    Comment: Merkel was grumpy about Trump publicly demanding NATO’s European partners pay their fair share. Germany has been a special target.

    He also publicly criticized Merkel, repeatedly during the campaign, about her catastrophic decision to throw open German borders to huge numbers of unvetted refugees from the Middle East. Really bad idea, and he called her out on it.

    And now she is grumpy and telling Europe to go it alone, or at least rely on itself (without the US) a lot more.

    So, here’s are the two big problems.

    First, there is no indication that Europeans actually want to pay for their own defense.

    Second, this Europe-on-its-own would inevitably be led by its richest, most powerful state: Germany.

    Europe’s experience with German leadership has not been a happy one. Nobody summarizes that experience better Norm Macdonald in these 90 seconds:

     Immigrant Rights groups are not happy with the head of Homeland Security. Not happy at all.  (Washington Times)

    Immigrant-rights groups were left steaming after Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said most of the illegal immigrant children who streamed into the U.S. in recent years were “a huge scam,” abusing lax policies to gain a foothold here.

    Mr. Kelly also said the families in Central America and here in the U.S. who orchestrated the dangerous journeys were guilty of “human trafficking” of their own children. . . .

    He was tapping into a fierce debate between security advocates and immigrant-rights activists in recent years. –Washington Times

     North Korea tests yet another missile (New York Times)

    The Pentagon is moving urgently to test a long-distance anti-missile system, one that has failed about half the time.

    Comment: W Trump is still relying on China to put pressure on Pyongyang, but either Beijing is not doing enough or lacks the leverage. 

    The US is moving more naval assets to the region. I should also sanction any bank or other institution (most of them in China) that has anything to do with North Korea.

     Oil prices sinking again. Now below $50  (Bloomberg)

    Bloomberg thinks the markets doubt OPEC cutbacks will stick.

    Comment: Fracking costs are also coming down as technology improves.

    Lower energy prices are like a tax cut for consumers.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • A Comment on the Terror Bombing in England

     

    ◆ A terrorist bombing aimed at killing innocent children–killing them deliberately–is so vile I cannot truly comprehend it.

    May the innocents rest in peace.

    May the wounded recover fully, in body and mind.

    May the police be safe as they root out the terror cells that prepared and executed this heinous act.

    May we, as citizens, name this evil plainly and call it out for what it is.

    The sources of funding must be cut off. Individuals across the Middle East who donate to these organizations are part of the conspiracy and should face the full force of the law. Nations that support it, either because of religious ideology or to divert the fury away from themselves, should be named, shamed, and sanctioned, not appeased.

    Israelis have faced these attacks for years–and been given the back of the hand by Europeans, morally supercilious in safe homes.

    Meanwhile, in southern Israel, bunkers have to be built beneath kindergarten playgrounds so the children can rush to safety within 15 seconds of hearing a warning siren that Hamas has fired a rocket.

    Now, these same forces of militant Islam have come to Europe, welcomed as refugees by clueless politicians. Most refugees are completely innocent. But some are not–and they work hard to recruit others as they do their dirty work in Germany, Belgium, France, Denmark, or England. Angela Merkel still doesn’t grasp the problem.

    Equally troubling, the refugees new life in Europe has failed to socialize many of them to Western values of religious tolerance, free speech, and democratic engagement. In these immigrant communities, the second and third generations are rife with the same views and problems they brought from North Africa or the Middle East.

    As the civil war deepened in Syria, some decided to join it and are now returning as, well-trained, battle-hardened veterans. They are ready to make war on the streets of Europe.

    Beyond the immediate problem of terror are the equally serious problems of controlling immigration and integrating those who are already in the west.

    Law enforcement is an essential part of the solution, but these problems go well beyond it. They require clear-eyed assessment and tough-minded action by citizens and leader who value the hard-won liberties of western, constitutional democracy and who can defend those liberties without eroding them.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, May 8

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     The biggest story is Macron’s landslide election as President of France, less because of him than because Marine Le Pen would have blown up the current structure of Europe.

    Macron’s challenge is to pull France out of its economic stagnation (a hard task because of deeply entrenched interests) and stopping the assault on French culture and traditions from unassimilated Muslim migrants from North Africa.

    As CNN accurately puts it: “Paris breathes a sigh of relief as Macron takes center stage”

    Macron, France’s youngest incoming president, was once a political wild card. The 39-year-old centrist independent — a former investment banker turned government minister who entered the presidential race without the backing of any established party — garnered a solid footing through his pro-EU stance and promises to reform France’s welfare and pension systems. –CNN

     The other big story: Hillary is coming out of the woods.

    She will make speeches (for money, of course) and start a new PAC. And she will continue blaming everyone else for losing the 2016 election. She is taking a bow, for some reason, for Macron’s victory, too.

    Her new political group could launch as early as this week, says Politico.

    Comment: Her return is bad news for the Democrats, who need to look forward, not back, and to develop new leaders, not rely on retreads who are proven losers.

    Along the same lines, former President Obama is working hard to defeat Trump’s changes to the health-care bill. (New York Times) Again, the old leaders, the ones who decimated the party, want to stay in front, leading it forward.

     In other news that portends stability for Europe, Merkel’s party does very well in German local elections.  (Bloomberg)

    Comment: She also gained from supporting Macron. Le Pen directly attacked her and would have undercut the EU.

     Another day in Chicago’s roughest neighborhoods: 2 dead, 8 hurt in shooting at Brighton Park memorial for earlier rifle slaying  (Chicago Tribune)

    Comment: This is a recurrent issue: gangs shoot up the funerals of rival gang members. What’s new is that they are now bringing high-powered rifles to these slaughters.

     FDA approves first new drug for ALS (Lew Gehrig’s Disease) in two decades (Medscape)

    Edaravone is a pyrazolone free-radical scavenger thought to lessen the effects of oxidative stress, which is a probable factor in ALS onset and progression.

    The drug was first approved to treat ALS in Japan and Korea in 2015. After learning about edaravone’s use in Japan, the FDA “rapidly engaged” the manufacturer to apply for approval in the United States. –Medscape

     Texas passes tough law against sanctuary cities (Texas Tribune)

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, March 27

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

    Blame game for health care continues. WaPo reports Trump blames Freedom Caucus and far right.  One member of the caucus, Ted Poe of Texas, resigns over health care failure.

    Comment: No news here, IMO. Everybody blames everybody. But the main things to notice are (a) how little of the blame is attaching to Trump and (b) how unprepared the R’s were to govern after 7 years of making this issue their top priority.

     Jared Kushner selected to lead a White House team to overhaul the federal bureaucracy  (Washington Post)

    The White House Office of American Innovation, to be led by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, will operate as its own nimble power center within the West Wing and will report directly to Trump. Viewed internally as a SWAT team of strategic consultants, the office will be staffed by former business executives and is designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington, float above the daily political grind and create a lasting legacy for a president still searching for signature achievements. –Washington Post

    Comment: Kushner, age 36 and Trump’s son-in-law, is a rising power in the White House. Taking on an arteriosclerotic bureaucracy, where almost everyone has civil-service protections, will be an enormous challenge.

     After months of political difficulty, Germany’s Angela Merkel gets very good news from a state election, which her party won easily  (New York Times)

    Ms. Merkel is seeking a fourth term in national elections on Sept. 24, a race that has grown more challenging in recent weeks after her center-left rivals, the Social Democrats, unanimously selected a new candidate, Martin Schulz, to lead them into the fight. –New York Times

    Comment: Merkel’s long tenure as German leader has lent stability to Europe and the EU. 

     Uber suspends its self-driving car program until it figures out why one crashed in Arizona  (CNBC)

    The accident occurred when the driver of a second vehicle “failed to yield” to the Uber vehicle while making a turn, said Josie Montenegro, a spokeswoman for the Tempe Police Department.

    “The vehicles collided, causing the autonomous vehicle to roll onto its side,” she said in an email. “There were no serious injuries.” –CNBC

    Comment: Sounds like the Uber vehicles did not initiate the crashes, and it is unclear to me whether better tech and programming could have avoided them. That, I assume, is what Uber wants to figure out.

     Cities and monuments switch off electricity for “Earth Hour”  (Phys.org)

    Comment: And they all get to pin “I’m Virtuous” Merit Badges on themselves.

     Scientists Turn Spinach Leaves into Beating-Heart Tissue  (Science Alert)

    Current bioengineering techniques, like 3-D printing, can’t build the intricate, branching network of blood vessels that makes up the heart tissue. However, a team of researchers from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), University of Wisconsin-Madison and Arkansas Sate University-Jonesboro have successfully turned to plants. –Science Alert

    Comment: Popeye smiles.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦